National Geographic National Parks GuideI don’t have time to be the nerd I used to be. Swear to God, if I could offer one piece of advice to my 21-year-old self, it would be this: “Take the Jeopardy! test now.”

Reading now takes time away from work and family. Staring at National Geographic maps, memorizing the nations and their capitals, takes time away from work and family. Everything takes time away from work and family, except work and family, and I try not to hold it against them.

About those National Geographic maps. I can still remember thumbing through each yellow-bordered magazine, smelling that glossy-print-page smell, and finding the map folded up in the middle of that month’s issue. Just the thought makes me nostalgic for Zaire and Yugoslavia. National Geographic is still around, of course. I hear they even have their own television channel now.

This is going to be more of a book review than a reminiscence eventually. The memories explain why I geeked out about the 8th edition of the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, released in January. It has a yellow border. It has maps. It has the same caliber of photography one would expect from the magazine, each drawing you one step closer to the park it depicts.

This guide is more practical than nostalgic, though the words and pictures might also jog memories about your last visit. The information is thorough and current. That means the URLs and the phone numbers should all work when you’re ready to make a reservation. Don’t know which of the 59 you want to visit yet? Dig in. There are more than enough insider’s tips and practical information to whet your appetite and plan a trip to just the right destination.

I often wonder if and when it’s practical to buy a physical book anymore. We have the Internet and iPads now, so why bother? An exception can be made here for a really good reason: You don’t want your devices on when you’re visiting a national park. This book is too big to fit in your back pocket, but it’s small and light enough that you can carry it around in one hand without the weight feeling like a burden. It’s the only book you’ll need while you’re on vacation.

Spring break is coming up, which might be your first opportunity to visit a national park since the book was released. (Thanks, work and family.) Time to read up!